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Nickname: The Peach State
Statehood: 1788; 4th state
Population (as of July 2015): 10,214,860
Biggest City: Atlanta
State bird: brown thrasher
State flower: Cherokee rose
The first people arrived in what is now Georgia at least 13,000 years ago. By 1,000 B.C. Native American tribes including the Apalachee, Cherokee, and Choctaw lived here.
In 1733 Georgia was established as the 13th colony, and in 1788 it became the fourth U.S. state. But at the start of the Civil War in 1861, Georgia left the Union and wouldn’t return until the end of the war in 1865.
WHY’S IT CALLED THAT?
Georgia was named after King George II, who approved the colony’s charter in 1732.
Wonder how Georgia got its nickname? Cherokee Indians grew peaches in Georgia in the mid-1700s, and today the state produces about 2.6 million bushels a year, making it the third biggest producer of peaches in the United States, behind California and South Carolina.
GEOGRAPHY AND LANDFORMS
In the northwest corner of the state is the Appalachian Plateau, with deep caves and the 2,393-foot-tall Lookout Mountain. East and south of the Plateau region is the Valley and Ridge region, which has steep, rocky ridges above fertile valleys.
In the northeast corner of the state are the Blue Ridge Mountains, with Georgia’s highest peak soaring to 4,784 feet. The center of the state is the Piedmont region, with valleys, low hills, and forests full of oak, hickory, and poplar trees.
To the south is the Atlantic Coastal Plain, with rivers, waterfalls, and beaches. It’s also home to the 700-square-mile Okefenokee Swamp. Full of twisting waterways, cypress trees, and alligators, the swamp is the largest in North America. Island-hoppers can take a quick drive to four of Georgia’s barrier islands (Sea, Jekyll, Tybee, and St. Simons), or sail across salt marshes to discover more remote islands.
Black bears, bobcats, deer, and gophers are common in Georgia, and off the coast you can spot manatees, right whales, and humpback whales. Georgia is also home to bald eagles, peregrine falcons, and woodpeckers.
Some trees you’re likely to see include live oak trees, magnolias, cottonwoods, sugar maples, and gum trees. But what’s that spooky-looking vine all over them? It’s Spanish moss, and it depends on trees for its water and nutrients. It doesn’t kill the tree, but the moss can shade the tree’s leaves and can sometimes cause branches to break off. Kudzu is another common vine, and this one is a really bad neighbor. This invasive species is sometimes called “the plant that ate the South” because of the way it grows up and over anything in its path, blocking sunlight and eventually smothering it.
With over half the state covered in pine trees and more commercial forestland than any other state, it’s no wonder Georgia is known for its lumber, resins, and turpentine, which all come from trees.
Georgia grows the most peanuts in the United States, and it’s also the country’s largest producer of kaolin clay, which is often used in paper-making and beauty products.
- Visit Radium Springs, natural hot springs that flow from the ground at 70,000 gallons a minute.
- President Jimmy Carter, Martin Luther King, Jr., and musician Kanye West all lived here.
- Take a horse-drawn carriage ride in the city of Savannah to see cobbled streets, beautiful parks, and 18th-century architecture.
Text by Jamie Kiffel-Alcheh
Photo credits: nicoolay, iStockphoto (flag); ~intangible~, Dreamstime (Cherokee rose); johnandersonphoto, iStockphoto (brown thrasher); John Wollwerth, Shutterstock (live oak); maogg, iStockphoto (quarter)
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